Category:  Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains)

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Fusilli with Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli

Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 17, 2015 0 Comments

Thanksgiving is about the Fall harvest – its abundance and our gratitude. Typical vegetables used for this great feast are cranberries, nuts, potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash.

Most of us incorporate these food ingredients into the dishes from our heritage. Many of you already know that we Italians begin a meal with pasta. And so, on Turkey Day, my first course will be Butternut Squash and Mint Fusilli. It’s fresh, fast and easy. Buon Appetito to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped butternut squash (cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound fusilli pasta (this can be substituted with another variety of short pasta)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons slivered, fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Prepare the Butternut Squash:
1. Place the butternut squash cubes in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with water.

2. Cover the sauce pot and bring the squash to a boil.

3. Boil the squash for 3 to 5 minutes or until it is crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Drain the squash and transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.

6. When oil is hot (but not smoking), add the cubed butternut squash and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes.

7. After 3 to 4 minutes, toss in the crushed garlic and cook for 1 more minute; set the skillet with the squash aside.

Boil & Assemble the Pasta:
1. Meanwhile, bring a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot of water to a boil.

2. When water boils, add 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water and the fusilli pasta.

3. Cook the fusilli pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente or crunchy-tender.

4. As the pasta cooks, warm up the butternut squash in skillet on moderate to low heat.

5. After 8 to 10 minutes, drain the fusilli pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the boiling liquid.

6. Toss the drained fusilli pasta into the butternut squash in skillet; add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and toss to warm through.

7. When pasta and butternut squash are warmed through, taste and add more salt (if needed) and a dash of ground black pepper.

8. Divide the pasta among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish with slivered mint leaves.

9. Ask guests to add some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to their Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli.
White Wine Pairing: chilled Fiano di Avellino or Pinot Grigio.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Speckled Brown Rice Salad (Vegan)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Salads On August 29, 2015 0 Comments

When I created this recipe I was in the mood to fine-tune brown rice into something exciting. I combined organic brown rice, colorful bell peppers, onions, carrots, lime juice, olive oil and white Balsamic vinegar. It’s vegan, too!

This “speckled” brown rice salad makes for a perfect side dish at our upcoming barbecue on Labor Day weekend. Have fun!

Cook time (rice): 25 to 35 minutes
Prep time (chopping ingredients): 10 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

Ingredients:
1 cup raw, organic, long grain rice
1-3/4 cups water
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper or Pasilla pepper
3 green onions, cut into thin circles (including light green stems)
1 tablespoon white Balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. In a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, combine the rice and water. Cover and bring rice to a boil.

2. When rice comes to a boil, lower heat to simmer and stir the rice once.

3. Cover the rice and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes or until rice is al dente or crunchy-tender.

4. When rice is cooked it will be puffy and dry. Immediately transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl.

5. Gently stir 1 tablespoon olive oil into the rice.

6. Set rice aside to cool for 10 minutes.

7. After 10 minutes, gently stir remaining ingredients into the rice. Taste and, if needed, adjust seasonings.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Rigatoni, Okra & Tomatoes

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Vegetables On July 2, 2015 0 Comments

With okra in season, why not prepare a delicious pasta dish for our upcoming July 4th celebration? While stewing the okra and tomatoes, the rigatoni pasta cooks in minutes – just add it to the okra in skillet. Enjoy and have fun!

Prep time: 8 minutes (for cutting okra, tomatoes & onion)
Cook time: 10 minutes (okra and pasta)
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white or brown onion (1/4-inch pieces)
1 large ripe tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 pound fresh okra, tips cut and discarded; flesh cut into 1/2-inch rings
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound Rigatoni pasta (or other preferred, short variety)

Directions:
1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high setting.

2. When oil is hot, add chopped onion; stir-fry onion for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is translucent and turns light golden brown.

3. Stir in the okra; cover and cook on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. After 1 to 2 minutes, stir in the wine; cover and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, bring a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot of water to a boil – keep water aside at a low boil.

6. After the okra and tomatoes have cooked 2 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup water, salt and black pepper.

7. Cover and stew the okra and tomatoes on medium-low heat for about 2 to 3 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, add the rigatoni to the boiling water; cook according to package directions – 8 to 10 minutes or until “al dente” (crunchy-tender).

9. While pasta boils, set the skillet with okra and tomatoes aside on a cold burner or on a countertop (this will ensure that it will not dry out).

10. When pasta has is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

11. Bring the okra and tomato stew to a simmer.

12. When okra and tomatoes simmer, stir in the drained pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid.

13. Stir and heat through on medium-high heat, reducing the liquid a little. If more pasta cooking liquid is needed, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more. NOTE: The pasta and okra mixture should not be soupy.

14. Divide the rigatoni, okra and tomatoes among 4 to 6 dishes. Ask guests to add some grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some crushed pepper to their rigatoni dish (optional).

15. Serve this pasta dish with chilled Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio wine (both are white wines).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

BeanSooup3.Jan3'15

Cannellini Bean Soup

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 3, 2015 0 Comments

Now that the holidays are over, I’m thinking about foods that’ll warm up my soul in January, February and March. Here’s an easy but healthy comfort food that has stayed with me since my youth in Italy – Cannellini Bean Soup (BTW, Cannellini beans are white and elongated, as opposed to smaller, rounder beans).

After the beans are cooked, just add olive oil, green onions, tomatoes and oregano, to taste. Served with fresh bread, wine and a fireplace, you’ll stay cozy all night.

Prep time: Soak beans overnight plus 1-1/2 hours cooking time
Makes: 5 cups cooked beans
Serves: 3 to 4

Ingredients:
2 cups dry, uncooked Cannellini beans (one cup of dry beans will yield 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
3 to 4 green onions, ends and dark green stems cut and discarded
1 to 2 tomatoes (any variety)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (this can be substituted with 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
French or Italian bread (for serving with beans)

Soak and Cook the Beans:

1. The night before serving the beans, place 2 cups uncooked Cannellini beans in a 3 to 4-quart porcelain or metal bowl on a countertop; cover with cold water.

2. Make sure the water level is one inch above beans; cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain the beans, discarding the water.

4. Place soaked beans in a 4 to 6-quart sauce pot; add cold water (make sure the water level is two inches above the beans).

5. Add onion and bay leaves to the beans.

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. When beans come to a boil, set heat on medium to medium-high.

8. Cook the beans for approximately one hour.

9. After one hour, taste a bean to check doneness. If needed, cook the beans for 20 to 30 more minutes, checking their doneness every 10 minutes.

10. By checking doneness every 10 minutes, the beans will not overcook or break apart.

Prepare Garnish for Beans:

1. Meanwhile, cut the green onions into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

2. Remove stems from tomatoes; cut each tomato in half.

3. Remove and discard pulp and seeds from each tomato-half; cut the flesh into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

4. If using fresh oregano, remove leaves from stems. Discard stems and finely chop the leaves.

5. Set the chopped oregano leaves aside in a small bowl.

6. When the beans are cooked but still hold their shape, remove and discard the onion and bay leaves.

7. Add salt and black pepper to the beans (to taste).

8. Set the garnish dishes, crushed red pepper flakes and the bread on table.

9. Serve Cannellini Bean Soup in individual bowls.

10. Ask each guest to garnish their own beans.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon (reds); chilled Chardonnay (white).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.SeafoodPaella

Seafood Paella

In Fish & Shellfish, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On October 3, 2014 0 Comments

Paella, a rice dish, was born in Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. The original regional dish, known as Paella Valenciana is made with rice, green vegetables, beans, chicken and/or rabbit, snails and saffron. Seafood paella is a variation that replaces land animals and vegetables with seafood. Paella is made in a paellera or paella skillet with an attached gas heating element or, alternatively, over a barbecue grill. I’ve tried making paella on a grill, but the heating was uneven. This resulted in patches of crunchy or raw rice.

Here I am trying not to look frazzled over my first attempt at making Paella Valenciana:
Image.PaellaNRoutside

You can cook paella in a paellera (just like the one you see in the above photograph); in a 14-inch, nonstick skillet on a stovetop; or in a nonstick, 16-inch electric skillet. After attempting all three cooking methods, I opted for the latter.

Cooking paella in an electric skillet is hassle-free because every time you add ingredients, you set a timer and walk away. Since the paella cooks itself, you can sit, have a glass of wine and converse with your guests. Look at how successful my paella turned out (BTW, this was my third attempt):
Image.SeafoodPaellaNR

Finally, I can relax while making dinner for friends! Here’s the Seafood Paella recipe that I brought back from Spain!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes (preparing all ingredients)
Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients* [TO MINIMIZE WORK ON THE DAY OF MAKING PAELLA, READ NOTES ON PREPPING INGREDIENTS AT BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE]:

4 to 4-1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
.37 grams ground saffron (to turn the rice bright yellow, use 3 envelopes saffron, each weighing 0.125 grams)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large red onion, finely chopped
12 live mussels, in-shell
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped Spanish chorizo (this resembles Italian pepperoni sausage)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2-1/2 cups Dacsa® rice (this rice brand is from Valencia, Spain and is a key ingredient)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash ground black pepper
4 ounces Spanish pimientos, rinsed and cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup frozen peas
15 to 18 fresh, medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed (wild shrimp is preferable, since it has more flavor than the farm-raised variety)
1/2 pound fresh sea scallops, rinsed
4 calamari bodies, cut into 1/4-inch thick circles and then rinsed
8 to 10 calamari tentacles, rinsed
3/4 pound wild salmon, skin discarded and fillet cut into 4-inch pieces (this is an optional ingredient)

Prepare the Broth & Mussels:
1. In a 2-quart sauce pot, heat the chicken broth to just boiling.

2. Stir the saffron into the hot broth; set aside, covered.

3. In a 1-quart sauce pot, bring the wine and half of the chopped red onion to a boil. Reserve the remaining onion for the paella later.

4. Rinse the mussels under cold, running water and then transfer them to the boiling wine mixture.

5. Cook the mussels in the wine mixture, on medium heat, for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, remove the mussels from the wine mixture and set them aside in a glass or metal bowl, covered with aluminum foil.

7. Strain the wine mixture, discard the onion and reserve the liquid. Set aside.

Start the Paella:
1. In a nonstick skillet (stovetop or electric), heat the olive oil.

2. When the olive oil is hot and shimmering, stir in the remaining chopped red onion, crushed garlic and chopped bell pepper.

3. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 4 minutes.

4. After 2 to 4 minutes, stir in the chopped tomato and Spanish chorizo.

5. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes (do not let the chorizo burn).

6. After 2 minutes, add the reserved wine liquid, the cayenne pepper and the rice.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir once.

8. After stirring, carefully pour 4 cups of chicken broth into skillet.

9. Season the rice mixture with salt and black pepper.

10. Cover the rice mixture and cook on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 15 minutes – DO NOT STIR THE RICE.

Add Pimientos, Peas & Seafood to the Paella:
1. After 15 minutes, check the rice by inserting a spoon in center of skillet.

2. If the rice is dry and there is no liquid, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth.

3. If the rice is simmering with liquid, do not add the broth.

4. Scatter the pimientos and the rice over top of paella.

5. Next, scatter the shrimp over paella and press it gently into the rice.

6. Repeat this method with the scallops, calamari bodies and tentacles and the salmon pieces.

7. Cover and cook the paella on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 10 minutes.

8. After 10 minutes, taste the rice to check doneness – it should be crunchy-tender.

9. If rice is done, cover the paella and remove the skillet from heat. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

10. After 5 minutes, serve the paella in individual dinner plates with a green salad. Alternatively, serve the paella and salad as a buffet and ask guests to help themselves.

*NOTE: One day ahead, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Prepare the chicken broth: in a 3-quart sauce pot, cover 2 chicken thighs, 2 chicken legs and 1 white or brown onion with cold water and bring it to a boil. Cook chicken broth for 40 minutes & add salt, to taste. Transfer chicken to a plate and use for another purpose. Strain the broth and store it in a glass or porcelain bowl, covered & refrigerated.

2. Buy the seafood a day ahead: rinse all raw seafood. Peel and devein the shrimp; cut the calamari bodies into rings. Cut the salmon into 4-inch pieces.

3. Store each seafood variety in separate glass jars or disposable plastic containers, covered & refrigerated, until ready to use.

*NOTE: On the day of making the paella, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Chop the onion; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
2. Crush the garlic; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
3. Chop the red bell pepper; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
4. Chop the tomato; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
5. Chop the chorizo; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
6. Rinse and cut the Spanish pimientos; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Wine Pairing: Chilled white wine from the Rioja region of Spain; Chardonnay; or Pinot Grigio.
Text and All Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real